If you are tuned in to OWN or checking out this website, it means you are most certainly interested in personal growth and evolution. You want to push yourself to be healthier, feel more connected in a soulful way, and be a change agent in the world. In all of us, I believe, is that impulse to advance and develop skills to be better, happier, more productive human beings. So here's the million-dollar question: How do we do that?
It's actually not so difficult at all, and it's a multipronged approach. In fact, there are very specific things you can do to nudge yourself forward. Let me outline what I call the Eight Pillars of Wellness for you so you can start filling in the missing pieces where you see them. Just set your intention to be happy and healthy, and then lean into your process!
The 8 Pillars
"Meditation" is a word that scares a lot of people. They don't think they're the "kind of person" who could possibly sit for long stretches with an empty mind. I'm not suggesting that you do that. "Meditation," as I use the word, is simply a state of quiet contemplation. It involves turning your focus inward for at least a few moments at a time so you can access a deeper reality. Practicing a daily ritual of meditation almost always leads to positive changes in your life in that you are more relaxed and in tune throughout the day and can better handle stress and adversity. You are more present to life and can respond in a more balanced and thoughtful way to the situations that come up.
Visualization helps you rejigger the way you see things so that you can respond to life differently; it takes apart old images and replaces them with new and better ones. With these new images in place, you will begin to think differently, and as you think and behave differently, people will change the way they respond to you.
Next:Fun activities and conscious eatingFun Activities
This one often surprises people, but I can't imagine moving forward on life's path without having any fun. Fun activities, whatever they might be for you, bring levity to your life. They loosen up your energy and bring in optimism. They remind you that life is meant to be joyful. Paint, dance, play with your dog or do your favorite sport...regularly!
This is my favorite pillar, and I think the most powerful of them all. Here's why: What you eat affects your body, soul and, actually, the whole world. Conscious eating just means that you become more aware and alert to the process of how your food gets to your plate, and you choose to eat what feels right according to your values of kindness and compassion.
In terms of benefits, moving away from eating animals and toward eating things that grow in the ground or on trees—things like grains and beans, fruits and veggies—helps heal your body. Within the first week of eating a plant-based diet, weight begins to drop off effortlessly. Within two weeks, blood pressure and blood sugar drop, and within three weeks, cholesterol drops significantly.
Environmentally, steering clear of eating animals is one of the very best things you can do for the environment because animal agriculture is one of the top causes of water pollution and water shortage, soil degradation and climate change. The Environmental Defense Fund tells us that if every American gave up eating animal products for one day a week for a year, it would be like taking 8 million cars off the road! How's that for being a change agent?
And as for the soulfulness factor, when you eat food that didn't cause suffering (plant food instead of animal food!), your heart opens and you feel more connected to life, more aligned with an inner integrity.
Next: Exercise, self-work, spiritual practice and serviceExercise
Exercise is a way of achieving fitness across the board in each of the arenas of body, mind and spirit. By maintaining a moderate amount of exercise in your daily life (at least 30 minutes, three to six times a week), you can significantly improve your overall well-being. The merits range from helping to prevent or alleviate the symptoms of chronic or major health conditions (like cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity) to improving your confidence and self-esteem. After a rigorous session of weight training or a fairly strenuous hike or walk, you can feel the circulation of energy throughout your entire system. Instead of feeling exhausted afterward, you actually feel energized and more alert.
Self-work means just that: working on ourselves. It means that we (1) look at where we are, (2) set some goals for where we'd like to be, and then (3) chart the course on how to get there.
Spiritual practice brings us back to our identification with something larger. It increases our capacity to love and be kind, both to ourselves and others. At its best, it is both inner directed (learning to love myself) and outer directed (learning to love others). Through spiritual practice—be it regular attendance at a church or a self-styled course of intensive reading in a given tradition or philosophy—you learn that the more you can transcend the narrow focus of "me and mine," the wider your circle of consideration can become. Thich Nhat Hanh, the Buddhist monk and philosopher, says, "Without a spiritual dimension, we will not have the capacity to confront suffering, to transform suffering and to offer anything to life. A person without a spiritual path is a person walking in darkness. With a path, we are no longer afraid or worried."
It's all too easy to get caught up in life's little dramas and forget about the big picture, but when you reach out and help someone, you feel your sense of purpose and mission kick in. When you give, you strengthen a mind-set of abundance rather than one of lack of abundance. Service makes you feel good. It helps you transcend the small self in favor of the higher Self.
Before you panic, I am not suggesting that you focus on all eight all the time! I'm just suggesting that you use these practices whenever you feel stuck or particularly challenged; I promise they will lead you to your path of health and happiness. And as you grow and evolve, I know you'll take the whole world right along with you to a better place!